Maduro says still in control, open to talks with US: report


Washington (AFP)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he was still comfortably in charge and open to direct negotiations with the US, in an interview published Saturday by The Washington Post.

The interview was Maduro's first with a major US outlet since February of last year, when he abruptly ejected all Univision journalists from Venezuela.

"If there's respect between governments, no matter how big the United States is, and if there's a dialogue, an exchange of truthful information, then be sure we can create a new type of relationship," Maduro told the Post.

The socialist leader said he was ready to hold talks with the US to negotiate an end to sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump intended to throttle the South American country's oil industry and force Maduro from power.

Maduro indicated that, if Trump were to lift sanctions, US oil companies could benefit immensely from Venezuela's oil.

"A relationship of respect and dialogue brings a win-win situation. A confrontational relationship brings a lose-lose situation. That's the formula," Maduro said.

The US, along with more than 50 other countries, recognizes Maduro's opposition rival Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate interim president.

Guaido has called for a new presidential election to be held, on the grounds that Maduro is an "illegitimate" president because his 2018 re-election was tainted by fraud.

Oil-rich Venezuela's economy is crumbling under Maduro's rule, and millions have fled the country.

But despite the humanitarian catastrophe and biting US sanctions, Maduro maintains power with the support of the military as well as Russia, China and Cuba.

While speaking to the Post, Maduro also expressed willingness to talk with Guaido, but appeared to dismiss his opponent's main demand that he step down.

Norway has mediated talks between Maduro's and Guaido's representatives, but the meetings broke down in August.

The US in early January threw its support behind negotiations in Venezuela, saying talks could establish a transitional government, lead to fresh elections and bring an end to the country's long-running political crisis.